*Trigger Warning* This is a detailed, raw and honest account of my miscarriage at nineteen weeks.
It is thought that about 10-20% of known pregnancies will miscarry, 80% within the first trimester. This is my story of losing my baby at nineteen weeks pregnant. If I had birthed him one week later it would have been classified as a stillbirth. So many of us women go through miscarriage and struggle to find support when we most need it. As a society we tend to shy away from the “dead baby” talk. Many of us feel as though we must just move on, the topic never to be spoken of again even though it eats away at us. I mean, how do you bring up your dead baby during a conversation? It’s painful and no one knows what to say. This is my story.
I felt anxious during the first trimester but I am by nature an anxious person. I asked my friend who is a midwife to come over so we could try to hear the heartbeat at ten weeks. Amazingly enough her Doppler did pick up a heartbeat. This is quite early to hear one but I had also felt my baby already once. I was excited and relieved. As I happily moved into my second trimester I started to suspect that something was wrong. My swollen belly felt the same every time I felt the height of my uterus. I used to attend births and have had the privilege of feeling many growing bellies and squirmy babies in utero. I knew mine just did not feel right. It almost became an obsession. Every day I would feel for the top of my uterus knowing it was not growing as expected. Yet I carried on, hoping and holding onto that tiny bit of hope that all of us mums have…it will grow, I am just small for dates, I am actually not as far along as I thought…Is it intuition or just anxiety? Yet as I approached the second trimester I could not ignore it anymore. My feta-scope (a cool little contraption that looks like a stethoscope but picks up a baby’s hearbeat in utero once you are in the second trimester) was still not picking up a heartbeat and I knew I had to find out for sure…
I headed into the doctor’s office. He placed the Doppler on my belly and there was silence. The sound of white noise and my own personal misery. The doctor told me I would need to go to the hospital to know for sure but I knew. As I left the doctor’s office the nurse said to me, “don’t worry! It will be OK!” “No it won’t!” I wanted to shout back at her but I didn’t. I silently left and went home.
I had planned a homebirth and still wanted to birth my baby at home, although this was no longer classified as a “birth” but a “miscarriage” instead. But I was surrounded by boxes in my house and chaos. We were moving in a matter of days. I didn’t know when “it” would happen. Would I be moving a box and start bleeding? Would I be lying in my bed thinking about our move the next day and feel the knowing cramps of labour starting? I could not live with the unknown in the midst of our chaotic move and very active two children. I decided to go to the hospital that night so I could birth my baby that night. My baby had died, I did not have control over that, but I did have the capability of birthing how I wanted.
In the ER I was met by my husband who had to fly home from a trip out of state. he arrived shortly after I was put into a bed. We hugged, we cried and we stared into space asking all the questions that filled our head like bouncing balls, “why? why? why?” I went through my pregnancy in my mind…”was it that time I attended two births back to back and didn’t sleep for almost two days? Was it that fast food meal I ate? Was it that glass of wine I drank before I knew I was pregnant?” I knew it was not my fault but we all question ourselves, guilt ourselves into this repeated cycle of blaming ourselves for something in which we have no control over. I remember thinking, “a crack addict can birth a baby at full term! Why can’t I? I ate organic foods! I avoided alcohol and refrained from eating that fucking awesome looking brei cheese wheel! I gave up smoked salmon!” And still my baby dies.
We were brought up to the birthing suite. In Australia if you birth your baby you are in the birthing suite, whether or not your baby is alive. I laboured and birthed while listening to the cries of other women’s babies. Honestly, I still felt a happiness for them but it also slowly dug a black pit within me of bitter sadness.
At first I thought I wanted a D&C where they remove my baby as I could not bear the thought of going through labour. Ultimately I decided to go with the doctor’s suggestion and have misoprostol inserted against my cervix. This opened up my cervix slowly and allowed me to go through labour, and birth my tiny baby. I am forever grateful that this was the option I chose. I may have lost my baby but I still experienced the pregnancy for nineteen weeks, labour and birth. For women who are in the position to choose (it depends on where you are within your pregnancy) it can be an important part of the healing process to be able to decide how it will happen. Ask if there are options for you. The more choice you have the more control you have over something which is so incredibly out of your control.
A male OB ended up inserting the misoprostol. I secretly hated him. I hated him for being a guy. I hated that he would NEVER understand what it means to birth a baby at nineteen weeks. I hated it that he tried to make it seem as though he had an idea of what it is like to go through something like this.
After the miso was inserted two separate times, four hours apart, I finally started to feel contractions. They came and went, got stronger and closer just like I remembered…I got into the shower and finally as I was sitting on the toilet I birthed my tiny, perfect baby with his little cord and placenta, into a little dish the midwife gave me. My husband and I were alone when I finally birthed him. We cried and hugged and cried and didn’t know what to do with ourselves. The midwife came in soon after and she sat on the floor holding the little dish. She gently placed my baby’s hands on top of one another and crossed his little legs. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and was touched that she even thought to do this. I am not religious but if ever there was an angel, my baby looked the part at that moment. He had stopped growing around fifteen weeks and was so very tiny. But again, perfect.
I got back into bed for a bit after I birthed him and an overwhelming urge to breastfeed took over me. I wept again for my empty breasts and empty womb.
We packed our bags, left the hospital and went home to hug our two children who were waiting with my husband’s amazing parents who came down to watch them. My husband and I took our children and went to bury our little babe in the earth. When we returned we planted a lime tree in a huge pot in memory of our little baby and still have it today.
I have no idea what the date is of my miscarriage. I don’t even know for sure the month, but I do know the three year anniversary is around this time. I have since had a beautiful little boy and not only birthed him at term but held him in longer than any other baby I have birthed! I am actually thankful I do not know the date. I don’t have a day that creeps up on my during the year. I do not have a day when I feel more sad than the others. For some women knowing the day might be helpful, for me it has somehow made it easier that it’s an unknown.
Thank you to all of the women in my community who cooked for me, delivered food to my house and cried with me. Often times people don’t know what to say. If you know someone who has lost a baby please have a look at this list as ideas of things you can do. Do not say, “let me know if there is anything I can do.” She will never ask you. Just DO something…
1. Cook a meal and drop if off to her place
2. Put on a load of her laundry
3. Clean her dishes
4. Pick up her house and play with her children if she needs some rest
5. Sit with her, hug her and cry with her
6. Don’t be afraid to bring it up right after, a few months after or a few years after. She will think about it on and off and might even be relieved that you are asking about her baby as most everyone else will never ask her about it again. If she doesn’t want to talk about it, she will let you know.
To the mum who has just lost a baby, it changes you forever but the pain is not as piercing as it once was. Grieving comes and goes like a wave. Awhile after I lost my baby I saw a woman who I knew and was due the same time as me. Huge, gorgeous belly about to pop. I had not cried in months but I went home and sobbed that night. It hits you sometimes when you least expect it. Sometimes this still happens to me but it is much less frequently than before…
The lime tree that was planted in our baby’s memory did not fruit for over a year. It would flower, we would get excited and then no fruit. We fertilized it, trimmed it back and loved it up, still no fruit. As I reached my final trimester of pregnancy with our next baby, I went outside and noticed our fruit tree had finally started to grow limes. When I was almost due, one afternoon my husband brought in handfuls of limes into the kitchen. Our first bounty. I stood there crying with my swollen belly and knew it was not a coincidence. I remembered our tiny perfect baby as I prepared for our next one.